The Satanic Temple agreed to a settlement with Pennsylvania’s Saucon Valley School District last week for $200,000 in legal fees and access to their buildings for their After School Satan Club.
It’s another victory for those who oppose Christian supremacy by appealing to the same religious freedom arguments evangelicals use to gain access to public schools and government property.
The argument stems back to a 2001 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed the Good News Clubs to meet in public schools after school hours. Due to what it sees as a harmful, dehumanizing theology promoted by Good News Club, the After School Satan Club offers an alternative view in some of the same locations.
As an ex-evangelical parent of five public school kids, it can be frustrating to watch these back-and-forth political battles happening in schools. After all, the reason our kids are there is to learn, not to get swept up into culture wars.
But because evangelicals have so succumbed to the devil’s temptation of authority and glory over the kingdoms of this world, the irony is that Jesus followers are fully embracing the devil’s offer, while the Satanic Temple is the group standing up for “the least of these.”
What many Christians and Satanists have in common
In an interview with Baptist News Global, June Everett, campaign director for the After School Satan Club and Hellion Academy of Independent Learning and an ordained minister of The Satanic Temple, said: “We had a Christian Biker Group (gang) come and support us at every school board meeting in Chesapeake, Va. I hear from people that are proud Christians all the time, stating that they appreciate what we do and think that our campaigns and our mission are needed more now than ever.”
When asked how Christians tend to respond to the Satanic Temple’s legal arguments for their religious freedom, Everett said, “The Christians that are willing to listen (and I do believe they really make the majority, like my father for example) to who we are and what we do agree that we make lots of good points.”
Because the Satanic Temple recognizes most Christians are willing to listen to those they disagree with, there is an opportunity for conversation and convergence, even in the midst of religiously fueled legal settlements.
“Many of them I hear from understand that although we have different beliefs, we are fighting for their religious freedom as well,” Everett noted. “After all, we are not an anti-Christian church, and we have members of the Satanic Temple who are Christian.”
Saving the children through threats of God’s violence
Despite the Satanic Temple offering the fruit of kindness, some Christians choose not to see and take of it.
“Please keep your false doctrine and deception to yourself instead of infecting our beautiful, precious, innocent children with pure evil!” one person wrote. “Live your own life how you choose, and please leave our children alone!”
“Get the f*** out of my state you sick a**holes,” declared another. “How dare you go after young kids with your demonic ways. GET THE F*** out of here.”
As one would imagine, threats of hellfire are common. One person celebrated, “I’m so glad the day God rose from the dead was the day Satan was defeated. You’ll see. You’re time’s coming. Have a nice burn.”
Still, other Christians seem to take less delight in what they believe will be the eternal suffering of all non-Christians. “You will have to answer to God one day too, just like everyone else. So I encourage you to get right with the Lord,” one wrote. “Hell is no joke (nor is Satan), and hell is very real. Please don’t take our sweet children along with you!!!! Their souls matter (and so does yours).”
Of course, there also are lone actors who attempt to save the children through threatening violence against the After School Satan Club.
“You should see the threats that come in on some of our posts,” Everett mentioned. “Very violent threats that we are in contact with the FBI with. I understand these people are bonkers, do not represent the Christian majority, and really are just having their privilege checked, which is a hard pill to swallow when you have never had your privilege challenged.”
A global mission reaching millions
Despite that gracious response to threats of damnation, the fact is that Christians who celebrate violence have built up enough privilege in the world to cast a world wide web of sacralized violence against children through the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s after school program — the Good News Clubs.
Hailing itself as “the largest Christian ministry to children in the world” with a goal of reaching “100 million children per year,” Good News Clubs boasts of having already caught the minds of millions, including:
– Kenya — 636 clubs; 8,419 teachers; 1.6 million children
– Philippines — 8,708 clubs; 8,253 teachers; 1.5 million children
– United States — 6,081 clubs; 37,700 teachers; 717,000 children
– Ghana — 995 clubs; 3,742 teachers; 449,000 children
– Ethiopia — 4,455 clubs; 23,800 teachers; 311,000 children
– South Korea — 3,070 clubs; 44,500 teachers, 296,000 children
For some local context, the chapter in the South Carolina county where I live boasts on their home page of reaching 4,559 children with 1,220 volunteers, with 119 salvations and “32 previously unchurched children now attending a local church” as of September 2023.
Exciting and fun-filled!
When we decided to enroll our children in public schools after years of homeschooling, we didn’t know what to expect. After leaving the institutional church, we were thankful for a space where our kids could learn without being indoctrinated with the threats of violence that are at the center of conservative evangelical theology. So when we entered the school for the first open house, we were caught off guard when we saw the table for the Good News Club.
In a scene reminiscent of the “child catcher” in the old Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie, we watched as adults lured kids to their table with candy.
In the year and a half since then, we’ve become accustomed to receiving flyers in our kids backpacks advertising the clubs.
Some of the flyers advertise:
– “Games, Bible lessons, songs, and friends!”
– “Prizes, snacks, games.”
– “Children will learn character education through Bible stories, Bible verses, songs, plays and DVDs.”
– “A nondenominational after school club designed and organized to teach respect, honor, morals and character development from the Christian perspective.”
– Children will learn: God loves them, every person has value, how God can help them do the right thing, find victory in the hard times, show love to others, etc.”
– “An exciting, fun-filled weekly club for kids which teaches leadership skills and moral character development through the Bible with songs, stories, games.”
To evangelize boys and girls with the gospel
According to their website, their purpose of Good News Clubs is “to evangelize boys and girls with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to establish (disciple) them in the word of God and in a local church for Christian living.”
So how do all the prizes, snacks, and games fit in?
In a documentary about Good News Clubs, one volunteer says, “Our main focus is for them to hear the gospel message, but to allow them the fun to draw them into that and everything. And then they get to, of course, go on the big, huge, giant jumpy after hearing the gospel message and getting their bracelet.”
The bracelet, of course, is made up of colored beads that correspond with the “wordless book,” which gives their plan of salvation.
In other words, all the fun is meant to lure kids in by lowering their defenses for proselytization.
A gospel of disobedience and violent punishment
In the curriculum they teach to public school kids on school property, they say, “If you’re asked to do something — sweep the floor, clean your room — how much of it do you need to do before you can say, ‘I did it’? Yes. You need to do all of it. If you only partly obey, you are actually being disobedient.
Then they point to the story of God telling Saul to commit genocide against the Amalekites. They tell the kids, “Samuel was careful to explain what God wanted Saul to do. ‘You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites, people and animals, every living thing, nothing shall be left.’ That was pretty clear. Wasn’t it?”
And why did the Amalekites deserve to be violently murdered? According to the Good News curriculum, it was because the Amalekites had “heard about God many years before but they refused to believe him.” Then they continue to explain, “God is pure and holy so he must punish sin. The Amalekites refused to believe in God, and God had promised punishment. Now was God’s time for that punishment.”
With all the school shootings, you’d think it would be illegal for the Good News Clubs to talk in public schools about the genocide of unbelievers as an example of complete obedience to God. Just because you have religious freedom doesn’t mean you should have free access to promote child sacrificing death cult theology in our schools.
If the Satanic Temple ever talked about Satanists killing children in complete obedience to Satan in the public schools, evangelicals would rightly be outraged. But evangelicals get to talk about the genocide of children as complete obedience to God through the “Good News Clubs.”
You deserve to be violently murdered and eternally punished
If you’re a 5-year-old hearing this from an adult teacher in your school building, you’re going to hear that if you don’t accept it, then you deserve to be violently murdered.
It all begins with their rejection of evolution in favor of young earth creationism. Katherine Stewart, journalist and author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, says in one documentary, “They make sure to tell kids that failure to accept this creationist understanding is a sin, which deserves punishment by death.”
Some of the messages the curriculum teaches children are:
– “You were born with darkness in your heart because of sin.”
– “You were born with a sinful heart.”
– “When God sees your heart, he sees it is full of sin.”
– “Others may think that you are a good person, but God knows what you’re really like on the inside. He knows that deep down you are a sinner — you were born that way.”
– “Your sin makes you ‘unclean’ before God, who is holy (perfect) and can’t stand to be near sin.”
– “It saddens Jesus how sinful you are.”
As a result, the teacher asks the child, “What punishment do you deserve for sin?” Then the child is expected to answer, “To be separated from God forever in a terrible place of punishment.”
According to another documentary, there are references to punishment an average of seven times per hour and explicit references to hell 2.5 times per hour.
Eric Cernyar, a lawyer who attended Good News Clubs as a child, says curriculum “includes 5,000 references to sin, over 1,000 references to obedience, and over 1,000 references to punishment. It also includes 52 direct uses of the word ‘hell,’ and over 250 illusions to the concept of hell.”
Children’s activities to embody their identity as worthy of death
Even the fun activities are marked with their violent theology. In one children’s activity, the class hangs a sign that has the word “sin” written on it around a child’s neck. Then the teacher asks what sin is. Once the definition is established, they state that “all have sinned and deserve God’s punishment for sin, which is death, separation from God forever.”
In another activity, they put a piece of paper that has the word “death” written on it in an envelope. The teacher tells a child that the child has earned what is in the envelope by sinning. Then the teacher says, “Let’s see what you’ve earned by sinning. … You have earned death — separation from God forever in a terrible place of punishment.”
This may be mainstream conservative evangelical theology but it is also government-sanctioned child abuse. Period.
A different gospel
The contrast between the gospel of the Good News Clubs and the good news of the After School Satan Club could not be more stark. According to their website, “After School Satan Clubs focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us. We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.”
Despite what evangelicals would have us believe, the After School Satan Club is not proselytizing children to worship a literal Satan. In fact, they do not believe Satan is a supernatural being to begin with. Rather, they believe Satan is merely “a literary figure that represents a metaphorical construct of rejecting tyranny over the human mind and spirit.”
The Satanic Temple, which sponsors After School Satan Club, posted a humorous children’s song called “My Pal Satan” with the lyrics:
Satan’s not an evil guy.
He wants you to learn and question why.
He wants you to have fun and be yourself.
And by the way, there is no hell.
While promoting the ideas that science helps us understand the world and all humans should be treated equally, the song admits that “Satan doesn’t actually exist.”
The After School Satan Club promotional materials say they don’t offer “any materials or lectures to your child about Satanism,” but instead explore free inquiry and rationalism to nurture “your child’s already awesome ability to be curious about the wonders around them.”
Who is the Accuser?
The character of Satan in the Bible is often referred to as “the Accuser.” On the surface, one might imagine the After School Satan Clubs would be the ones making accusations against the children, while the Good News Cubs would be the ones offering hope and affirmation.
But just as the roles have been reversed in the seeing and taking of power over others, so have the roles been reversed in the consistent pattern of accusation.
The Good News Clubs exploits working parents who have no other financially viable options for after-school care. They prey on children who are at a vulnerable age. They deceive parents about what they’re actually teaching the children. And they pose in school buildings to trick the children into thinking they have the same authority that their teachers had 15 minutes earlier.
If there is a Satan, it’s the Good News Clubs.
As R.L. Stollar, author of the newly released book “The Kingdom of Children: A Liberation Theology,” said in a statement to BNG: “Scaring, or even threatening, children with eternal hellfire is commonplace in evangelicalism. Even though such fear can create a lifetime of religious and other trauma, evangelicals insist it is appropriate to terrify children for the sake of their salvation. But testimonies from exvangelicals who cannot enter churches today without panic attacks expose this lie as antichrist. Terrifying children is worthy of millstones, not praise. Terror is a terrible foundation for faith.”
In contrast, BNG columnist Wendell Griffen says, “If your theology is wrong, you read the Great Commission as a license to go proselytize, as opposed to a mandate to do love and justice, and to model love and justice, and to call on the society and the world to be instruments of love and justice.”
In the case of the After School Satan Club vs. the Good News Clubs, it’s the Satanists who have their theology right.
Why does this belong in a school?
The larger problem is that religious indoctrination of any kind does not belong in a public school. Our schools should be neutral on religion — neither promoting nor denying any particular religious belief.
Yet the entire premise of conservative evangelicalism today is that they, alone, should be given access to shape public school children because they, alone, have the whole truth. This shows up in demands to ban books objectionable to a few parents, to alter the way science and history are taught so they conform with religious dogma, to ban discussions of gender and sexuality.
Remember that parent who opposed the After School Satan Club by saying, “Live your own life how you choose, and please leave our children alone!” That’s how a lot of other parents feel about the Good News Clubs too: Leave our children alone. Yet, when asked about parents who feel that way, representatives for the Good News Clubs have repeatedly been shown responding with nervous laughter and bewilderment.
The most important thing the After School Satan Club is doing is challenging the monopoly evangelicals have staked on public schools for indoctrination. Everett noted that Malcolm Jarry, who cofounded the Satanic Temple, stated, “We expose the hypocrisy of others — not just in their refusal to allow or want us to participate, but through the values they display and in their deceit about how they frame the values we extol. “
This article was originally published at Baptist Global News, a reader-supported, independent news organization providing original and curated news, opinion and analysis about matters of faith. You can sign up for their newsletter here. Republished with permission.